Michael Hell – Minimalist Conjuring

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?

I think this is a toss up between the fader on the Octatrack and the magnetic encoders on the OP-Z, they both feel great on their own terms so I would say both.

Octatrack Fader and OPZ encoders

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

The OP-Z is great and I think it is almost perfect. The big one is of course the hardware itself. I am currently having lots of issues with miss triggering and double triggers and it’s getting a bit annoying tbh and of course I hear people having issues with warpage of the OP-Z itself and popping encoders. On a lighter note, I would love to have the tonic drum engine (from PO-32) in the OP-Z as well, then it would be perfect.

Teenage Engineering OPZ

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?

I think it might be obvious by now…. OP-Z.

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I would love to have OrcΛ in hardware form, I just dreamt of a hardware device similar to Polyend tracker, but instead of a tracker for sequencing it’s OrcΛ.

PolyEnd Tracker

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I miss my Moog Minitaur a lot actually, the bass that thing churns out is staggering. I also miss the MPC Live at times, it was a really nice partner with the OP-Z. But I found the workflow really boring tbh

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

OP-Z for sure. I love how you can twist and bend a sequence with it.

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

Octatrack, It’s just a stream filled with possibilities.

Elektron Octatrack

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

The SP-404 I love the thought of it, but I hate using it, but I don’t want to sell it. One day I will truly master it! and I also feel like i should enjoy Eurorack a lot more, but I’m actually on the fence about selling all my Eurorack. I’m really down with minimalism. Ohh and the keys on the Arturia Keystep are atrocious, but that little thing is so damn handy.

[Editor: I had the SP404 years ago and sold it coz I just didn’t use it enough. Then I just got the SP404sx model with sd card. It’s strangely a lot more useful. Dunno why]

Roland SP404

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

Octatrack and QY70 go really well together. The standard midi template on the Octatrack corresponds with the midi implementation of the QY70. So basically you just have to connect them via midi and then start p-locking parameters without even setting up the CC’s. Also realizing that the midi implementation on the MPC Live is actually fantastic once you connect the devices with both midi in and out. the MPC reads all the midi CC settings so you can automate everything on the machine. its pretty incredible tbh.

Octatrack with Yamaha QY70

Artist or Band name?

Grååskala or Graaskala for you non nordics Genre? IDM…. i guess… Glitch… Maybe?

Micheal Hell

Where are you from?

Märsta outside of Stockholm. Currently living in the north of Sweden with wife and family.

How did you get into music?

Played piano and violin as a kid (briefly) but really connected with music through a friend who was doing troubadour gigs at the age of 21. Learned to play guitar and sang to that. Then I went on to study music as a vocalist for two years. Played in bands and such as a vocalist. Got into the electronic hardware thing just a couple of years back, when I wanted to get back into music, but didn’t have anyone to play with… so basically I made a one man band.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s a stress relief thing, I just love disappearing into music. Plus I have a primal need for creating stuff, I guess that’s why i became an engineer by trade so that i can always be in the process of creation.

How do you most often start a new track?

Drums. Almost always drums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Through my work I’ve learned to adapt to the phrase “good enough”. I know a track is ready when I feel like I have a structure in it or rather a story, there’s almost always imperfections in my recordings, but I chose to honor it instead of shunning it.

Show us your current studio

I’m not a collector in any sense. I have a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy and I strive towards having a streamlined workflow and most importantly FUN. So this is what I’m playing with currently.

Michael’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

On the subject of writer’s block Björk stated something in her Reddit AMA that really resonated with me. TL;DR don’t force your creativity.

“I think creativity always lives somewhere in everyone, but its nature is quite pranksterish and slippery and every time u grab its tail, it’s found a new corner to thrive in. Perhaps the trick is not to force it and put it up against a wall and want it to be in a particular area. But rather with a lot of kindness sniff it out and wonder where it has gone to this time around. If its in sauce recipes , writing theater plays , paper-mache improv with nephews, discovering new hiking routes or simply trying to figure out a family members sense of humour . I definetly don’t succeed in this all the time, but feel overall things have been more fertile when I trust this creatures instincts and follow it, rather than me willfully reforming it into a circus animal colouring by numbers”.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

Well it’s not new by any sense, but it is my latest, my OP-Z only album released on Golfshoe Music. Straight stereo recordings of performances, with imperfections and all.

Thanks for having me! Stay safe and creative folks!!

[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw a comment below…